My favorite quotation (and yes, the word is “quotation;” “quote” is a verb, thank you) from Harry S Truman (and no, there’s no period after the “S,” because it’s not an abbreviation; “S” was his entire middle name – my goodness, I’m being irritatingly picky today!) is this one:
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
But my second favorite quotation from Harry S Truman is this one:
“Not all readers are leaders… but all leaders are readers.”
(Before I go on, perhaps I should point out that we’re talking about “leaders” here, not “people who happen to have the title of ‘leader.'” They are not necessarily the same thing.)
It’s a simple equation: if you want to be a great leader, you need to be a great reader.
In a wonderful article from StartUs Magazine, Dave Olsen outlines five reasons for leaders to be readers:
- Reading elevates us above our current situation.
- Reading multiplies our experiences.
- Reading allows us to spend time with smart people.
- Reading can quickly build our expertise.
- Reading gives us an escape.
If at least three out of five of these reasons don’t excite you, then you have no business calling yourself a leader. That’s because most of these reasons are about growth, and if you’re not interested in growing, then you shouldn’t be in a position of influence over others. Period.
All of this, of course, begs the question: what should you be reading?
That’s up to you. But over the years I’ve developed a loose system for myself, and I invite you to steal it (or any part of it) for yourself.
My “system” is this. I always have a least four books going at any given time:
- A non-fiction book on my area of expertise. For me, this means Leadership, Creativity/Innovation, and Producing Under Pressure. Currently, I’m reading Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.
- A non-fiction book to help build my business. This could include sales, marketing, social media, branding, networking, or any of a number of other topics. Currently, I’m reading All About Them: Grow Your Business By Focusing On Others by my friend Bruce Turkel.
- A non-fiction book that has nothing to do with my business. These tend to be – although not exclusively – biographies and histories. Sometimes I’ll intentionally pick a topic in which I don’t necessarily have an interest (and often, the book will change my mind). Because of growth. Currently, I’m reading Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII .
- A fiction book. Preferably quality fiction (I tend to seek out Man Booker Prize finalists and winners), but occasionally just a fun “airplane book” read. This is my nighttime, just-before-bed reading. I just finished A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, and am starting Ian McEwan’s The Innocent.
I’m not saying you need to be reading four books all the …